Sign in the Mountain

“Somehow, I ended up on some Chinese mountain looking at a scene from a Timothy Leary lecture.”

Forced Perspectives & Cool Media

I got the old Chinese sage and piece of oval artwork I bought at the Heritage Square Antique Mall and started to positioning them on parts of a piece of Burl wood I bought at WoodWerks. I initially placed the sage on the piece of wood a few inches from the oval art piece. He was standing on some type of Burl wood mountain contemplating the object in front of him.

The Chinese Sage

The Oval Art Piece

But this looked too crowded so I took him off the Burl wood and placed him on my desk looking at the piece of artwork. Then, I added a background scene aquired via a quick search of “wallpaper for Chinese mountains” on Google. There were a number of images and I chose one that looked interesting. I placed the two Litra lights on both sides of the scene and placed green filters and diffusers on them and took some photos. Somehow, I ended up in some Chinese mountain looking at a scene from a Timothy Leary lecture.

Chinese Mountains Wallpaper From Google Images

Taking the old Chinese sage off the piece of wood and placing him next to it (rather than on it) seemed to provide an important cue to the narrative point of view for the scene. He was part of the scene yet not part of the piece of oval art on the Brul wood. The sage was somewhat like the prisoner figure in our previous Escape Route diorama, a figure both within the scene and out of it at the same time.

This business about positioning the figure inside or outside a diorama environment is close to a modeling technique called “forced perspective.” It is a perspective trick of the great dioramists like Shep Paine and Ray Anderson and uses a Box diorama to control the forced perspective. The use of forced perspective in box dioramas has been one of the main techniques of the greatest diaramists of our time. Here, like our previous Escape Route diorama, there is the use of a type of forced perspective technique outside the confines of a box diorama. I liked the scene so quickly created. The scene seemed to have created itself without much help from me.

The Scene Seemed o Have Created Itself Without Much Help From Me

I was satisfied with it for the time being and decided to name it Sign in the Mountain. There was no indication what it was a “sign” of. Just a sign that left the viewer to figure out what it was a sign for. Hopefully, the dioramas creates a form of ambiguity that creates questions rather than provides answers. It is the same type of ambiguity that media theorist Marshall McLuhan termed “cool” media as opposed to “hot” media. In effect, cool (interactive, two-way) media allows more participation in media by people than hot (broadcast, one way) media that allows less participation.

Artist As Assembler Rather Than Creator?

I thought about the three Burl wood dioramas I had just made (Deep Swamp State, Escape Route and Sign in the Mountain) and wondered whether I was creating a new type of diorama based on pulling together collected objects rather than creating new ones (like the Chasing Bullitt diorama). In fact, I thought about this question in the context of art in general and what all artists do. In fact, I wondered whether artists are more assemblers of things than creators of them.

And, when I thought about this process of collecting and assembling objects, I thought about all the coincidences involved in my three Burl wood dioramas. I wondered if the coincidences were what Carl Jung termed “meaningful coincidences” or synchronicity. How do all the objects come together at certain times to create certain scenes? Is there some hidden force that brings them together at particular points in time? The old Chinese sage with the oval art object and the piece of Burl wood? And me as I decide to drive down to the Heritage Square Antique Mall one day.

Boxes of Objects

Thinking of this, I look at all the objects for dioramas I’ve collected here in the studio. I wonder what their fate will be. WIll they be given “casting calls” for scenes in future diorams? Or, will they end up on a shelf or display case at some antique mall?

An Aisle of Glass Display Cases at Heritage Square Antique Mall

When I visited the Heritage Antique Mall for the second time the other day, I did get information on renting a space to put all the “antiques” stored in our basement. We’re thinking about renting an 8 x 10 foot space along one of the long aisles of the vast antique mall. And, I’m actually considering renting one of the glass cases in the mall to display some of my completed dioramas.


2 thoughts on “Sign in the Mountain

  1. The rock formation to the right of the Oval Art Piece appears (to me) to be a veiled woman looking slightly downward on the scenery behind the Oval Art Piece. Timothy Leary notwithstanding, this diorama might be working on my imagination!

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